Brown Girls Do It Too: 7 Things The Sex-Positive Podcasters Want You To Know

"We’ve all dated white men who makes assumptions about you – they presume you love Bollywood dancing."

Even as UK society relaxes its attitudes to sex and relationships and we see greater visibility for positive role models, not everyone feels included in the conversation. This is the motivation behind the launch of a new six-episode BBC podcast Brown Girls Do It Too. Two episodes in, the show is opening up debate and changing perceptions about sex in the British Asian community.

Hosted by second-generation Londoners Poppy Jay, 33, Roya Eslami, 24, and Rubina Pabani, 31 (Jay’s family are British-Bangladeshi, Eslami’s mother and father are Iranian and Pabani’s parents are from east Africa and grandparents from India), the three millennial women take a no nonsense approach to sex.

The BBC show – not to be confused with Brown Girls Do It, another great British podcast about race, class and politics – covers everything from losing your virginity to masturbation, orgasms, pubic hair, and taboos about female sexuality in each of the presenters’ respective cultures.

We asked the three hosts to share what they want others to know.

From left, Poppy Jay, Roya Eslami and Rubina Pabani.
From left, Poppy Jay, Roya Eslami and Rubina Pabani.

Brown women are having sex.

The biggest misconception the presenters come up against is that brown women live sexless lives outside of marriage. Rubina says: “We cannot speak for the whole British Asian community – we all have our cultural nuances – but there are some overriding things we find similar and one of those is white people looking at brown people and thinking they’re not having sex. But we are.”

“We are tired of you being shocked at our candidness and you being surprised that we are sexual. And we three are not anomalies in our community for being this way about sex,” says Roya, while Poppy shares an experience that summed this up for her, when she started a new job at a pub. “A couple of weeks in the guys I worked with were like, ‘we were worried you wouldn’t be a laugh or wouldn’t be able to have sexual banter’. They had made that decision purely based on my face before I’d even opened my mouth,” she says.

Brown women are not victims.

Another stereotype to debunk is that brown women are oppressed and without autonomy. Poppy says: “We’re often seen as victims – it’s an extension of the Japanese-Asian stereotype [that] these are timid women who obey their husbands or uncles. It’s a really archaic and boring thing to deal with.”

“My parents are quite Conservative and I am Muslim (and in my religion it does say you’re not meant to mix with other men), but I think the patriarchy is often, incorrectly, portrayed as being much stronger in our community; [as having] a much tighter fist on their community –‘our dads won’t let us out’ etc.”

Roya is similarly perplexed: “Well, the last thing I watched with a brown woman character in it she had a bomb strapped to her... there’s this idea that all brown women are timid, modest, humble. The three of us are not those things.”

Dating a white man isn’t rebellion.

“We’ve all dated white men who make assumptions about you,” says Poppy. “They presume you love Bollywood dancing or that what you are doing with them is a little bit sordid rather than natural and normal, because you’re sleeping outside of your race. We don’t just wear saris and make samosas – there is way more to us. And it’s annoying to even have to say: there’s more to us than curry and Bollywood dancing. You just get so bored by it.”

“You have people dating you because you are brown and on the other hand people not dating you because you’re brown."”

Racial fetishisation is a real thing.

Roya says: “I lost my virginity with a guy from a dating app and he told me I looked like Jasmine [the Disney character from Aladdin] mixed with the singer MIA. I can never work out if those things are compliments or insults.

“The issue with fetishisation is two-fold – a double-edged sword. On the one hand you have people dating you because you are brown and on the other hand you have people not dating you because you’re brown. It’s this really difficult thing where your face builds a narrative without you even saying a word.”

Brown women own their sexuality.

“It’s really dangerous when you’re not able to write your own narratives,” says Poppy. “On PornHub one of the top searches is ‘British Indian’ so somebody else is already writing those narratives for us - we are being told this is what women are supposed to like. Or we do sex this way. And it’s not our voices.

“We want to decide those things for ourselves – to talk about masturbation and sex toys and female-led pornography. What porn and Instagram has done to sex, having period sex or sex when you’re bloated. Having sex to get out of stuff or having a headache to get out of sex.”

The media needs more brown women.

The trio all say the only person they felt represented them in the media when they were growing up was the protagonist in Bend It Like Beckham – Jess Bhamra (played by Parminder Nagra). “Isn’t that so tragic though?” says Roya. “The issue with her is that she’s this beautiful, football playing girl who gets the white man in the end. But British Asian women are deeply flawed too – we make mistakes and do antifeminist things in sex because we think men will like it, we want to present this.”

Rubina agrees: “We want to show British Asian women in a way the media doesn’t normally show which is that we’re flawed, horny sex pests just like everyone else.”

Let’s all teach young people better.

As well as educating other millennial women, the main aim of the podcast is to reach out to young women who might not have other safe spaces to discuss sex, say the trio. “I was the girl at school nobody fancied and I believed it was because I was Asian,” says Rubina. “Now we want to make any woman listening feels sexual and desired and happy in the knowledge that she is enough.”

This podcast is also for boys, she adds. “Especially Asian boys. To tell them: we own our sexuality, we talk about it just as much as you do. We are just as horny as you and listen up and take notes. It’s like a GCSE bitesize cheatsheet.”

Listen to BBC Asian Network’s Brown Girls Do It Too on BBC Sounds.